The obvious answer that nobody likes


Well, Glenn, now that you mention it—

Can anyone reconcile Obama’s homage to “our legal traditions” and his professed faith in jury trials in the New York federal courts with the reality of what his administration is doing: i.e., denying trials to a large number of detainees, either by putting them before military commissions or simply indefinitely imprisoning them without any process at all?

—actually, yes, I can.

  1. Suspect is actually guilty.
  2. Evidence of guilt is too “classified”.
  3. Evidence of guilt is theoretic.
  4. Suspect cannot be reasonably convicted by any functional standard.
  5. Obama is an elected politician.

Do we really need it spelled out like that? Look, for whatever reasons—blame Bush if you want—President Obama finds himself in a position where (A) he’s not going to win bringing some guilty people to trial; and (B) as an elected politician, the one thing he apparently cannot do in such a circumstance is the right thing. The American people simply won’t stand for it.

Now, look. I’m glad we’ve got people like Greenwald doing what they do so well. But nobody’s perfect, and on this occasion it might be useful to admit that not everything in this nation is the fault of the government or press. Some of it is actually our fault. Voters, taxpayers, consumers, citizens—whatever word sounds most noble and heroic to your ears. I don’t care which; we’re all damned.

We keep electing these people. The American voter is neurosis in motion. We’re sick of incumbents who take their office for granted, yet we freak out if a candidate doesn’t have enough experience as a politician. We are upset with politicians who are out of touch with Americans, yet we demand higher standards for them. Now, let’s be clear on that one: Lie to us and you can start a war. But don’t you dare cheat on your wife.

Or, as Bill Maher put it, free beer and vagina trees.

So I’ll say it clearly for Mr. Greenwald and anyone else asking the obvious questions: This is what we wanted. Maybe not you and me individually, but Americans. This is what we voted for. What we failed to protest against. Hell, conservatives can find eighty-three random reasons to mobilize against a black man in the White House but we on the left couldn’t manage to find our voices against war and torture. Sure we had one or two politicians (McDermott, Kucinich), and the news media certainly didn’t like our kind, but we also spent the Bush administration being lazy, not going to jail, not holding mass demonstrations, not getting higher than Jesus and celebrating the American promise.

I get it, Mr. Greenwald. Many people out there do. But we cannot continue to rail against the political and private institutions that promote such injustice without ever looking to the people who empower them and asking what the hell is up.

And I recognize that it is unpopular in this country to acknowledge the things we do wrong. It’s a death knell for the politician, a blackball for the press. Yet we continue to reward liars and thieves with our votes.

Some days we even admit it to ourselves: This is the best we have; better to sound off in support than have no voice at all.

But for those things that make this nation so special and important, that fuel our leadership of the world? It’s all the same. If it’s bad for business, it’s bad for America. And that means truth, justice, and the “American way” are nothing more than inconvenient myths that people—Americans—are just about done with.

Do we play along? Fill up the Molotovs and fight? Maybe we should simply shut up and pretend this is still—or ever was—the land of the free and the home of the brave?

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